A record-breaking drought has hit southern Bulgaria and is expected to force authorities to ration food and water in some areas, prompting officials to issue emergency orders to evacuate residents.
Bulgaria’s Environment Ministry has said up to 3.5 million people in the north and southern regions could be forced to seek shelter or ration their daily lives.
The country’s government has issued an order to evacuate all non-essential positions, while a government-run radio station has urged people to keep away from places of worship and other religious sites.
Authorities have also ordered residents to get ready to ration their food and take preventive measures, such as using bottled water and washing hands.
Some schools and colleges have closed, and the country’s main metro station has suspended operations, the ministry said.
“Bulgarians are under the greatest pressure and are facing the greatest threat,” said Environment Minister Istvan Klimov.
“We must immediately address the problems with the weather.
We must find ways to save water and reduce the pressure on our water supply.”
The drought has already forced thousands of people to flee their homes in the south, which has been plagued by extreme weather since early April.
Some areas in the capital, Sofia, are currently under water pressure that the government says is expected up to four feet, while the capital’s suburbs have seen temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Bulgarian President Gennady Zyuganov said Tuesday the drought has been worse than he expected, saying the worst has been declared for parts of the country that lie south of the Black Sea.
The government has also warned residents not to travel in Bulgaria in the event of an emergency.
“It is important to know that this is not the first time that this situation has been described in terms of severe droughts and floods,” Zyugianov said in a televised address.
“I would like to stress that in our own country, our people have been under extreme pressure for many years and this is the first such case,” he added.
The drought is expected not only to affect Bulgaria but also neighbouring Romania, Bulgaria’s former communist east and southern Romania, and neighbouring Hungary.
The Hungarian Interior Ministry said Tuesday it was monitoring the situation in Hungary and Romania as well.
Bulgarian authorities said Tuesday they were expecting to have a total of around 2.2 million people affected by drought in Bulgaria, including around 1.4 million in southern Bulgaria.
Bulgars Ministry of Environment said the drought will cause a further increase in the cost of food and other commodities, as well as increase the burden of the government’s debt, and it will have a negative impact on the economy.
Bulgeria’s National Emergency Council said it had started a survey of its population to gauge the extent of the impacts on the country.